[ocr errors]

on the day of Greenwich Fair. That | itself as it presented itself to the fascifair was invariably held on Whit-Monday, nated eye of Voltaire. Everything com. and Whit-Monday fell in 1726 on May 30 bined to fill the young exile with delight (o.s.). Now a reference to the Daily Cou- and admiration. Though his health was rant for May 30 shows that a mail arrived delicate, he was in exuberant spirits. It from France on Sunday the 29th, which was a cloudless day in the loveliest month would be, of course, according to the new of the English year. A soft wind from style, May 18. Supposing, therefore, that the west — we are borrowing his own his visit at Calais was protracted to twelve glowing description — tempered the rays days after his letter to Madame de Fer- of the hot spring sun. The Thames, riole - and there is no reason for sup. rolling full and rapid, was in all its glory; posing that it was not - the time would and in all their glory, too, were the stately exactly tally. That he should have re- trees which have now disappeared, but mained on board till Monday morning which then fringed the river banks on need excite no surprise. But there is both sides for many miles. Nor was it other evidence in favor of this date. In nature only that was keeping carnival. the remarkable passage in which he de. It was the anniversary of the Great Fair, scribes what he saw on landing, he tells and it was the anniversary of the king's us that the vessels in the river had spread birthday. The river between Greenwich their sails (déployé leurs voiles), to do and London was one unbroken pageant. honor to the king and queen, and he par- Farther than the eye could see, stretched ticularly notices the splendid liveries worn with every sail, crowded two lines of merby the king's menials. We turn to the chant ships drawn up to salute the royal London Gazette for Monday, May 30, and barge, which, preceded by boats with we find that on that day, the king's birth-bands of music, and followed by wherries day, the rejoicings for which had been rowed by men in gorgeous liveries, floated deferred from the preceding Saturday, slowly past. Loyal acclamations rent the was “celebrated with the usual demon-air, and Voltaire observed with interest strations of public joy;” and in the Brit- that a nation of freemen was a nation of ish Gazetteer for Saturday, May 21, we dutiful subjects. From the river he turned read that “great preparations are making to the park, and, curious to see English for celebrating the king's birthday,” and society in all its phases, he spent the that “the king's medial servants are to afternoon in observing what was going on. be new clothed on that occasion.” We He wandered up and down the park, ques. believe, then, that Voltaire first set foot tioning such holiday-makers as could un. in England on Whit-Monday, May 30 derstand him about the races, and the (19), 1726.

arrangements for the races. He adinired On tbe voyage he had been the prey of the skill with which the young women melancholy thoughts. He drew, in the managed their horses, and was greatly bitterness of his soul, a parallel between struck with the freshness and beauty of his own position and the position in which their complexions, the neatness of their bis favorite hero once stood. And his dress, and the graceful vivacity of their feelings found expression in verse: - movements. In the course of his ram

bles he accidently met some English Je ne dois pas être plus fortuné

merchants to whom he had letters of inQue le héros célébré sur ma vielle. Il fut proscrit, persécuté, damné

troduction. By them he was treated with Par les dévots et leur douce séquelle.

great courtesy and kindness. They lent En Angleterre il trouva du secours,

him a horse, they provided him with reJ'en vais chercher.*

freshments, and they placed him where

both the park and the river could be seen But on landing he soon recovered his to most advantage. While he was enjoycheerfulness, and throwing himself in a ing the fine view from the hill, he per. transport of joy on the earth, he rever-ceived near him a Danish courier who ently saluted it. + Many of his country- had like himself just arrived in England. men have described their first impressions | The man's face, says Voltaire, was raof the land of Shakespeare and Newton, diant with joy; he believed himself to but to none of them has it ever presented be in a paradise where the women were

always beautiful and animated, where the • Quoted in the “ Historical Memoirs” of the author sky was always clear, and where no one of the " Henriade” (1778), where the writer speaks of thought of anything but pleasure." And having seen these verses in a letter in Voltaire's own liandwriting addressed to M. Duinas d'Aiguebere.

1," he adds, " was even inore enchanted | Duvernet, Vie de Voltaire, p. 64.

than the Dane."

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

The same evening he was in London, 1“ Zaïre” to him; he regularly corre. in all probability the guest of Boling. sponded with him; and to the end of his

; broke. His acquaintance with that dis- life he loved to recall the happy days tinguished man had begun at La Source spent under his good friend's hospitable in the winter of 1721. Their acquaintance roof at Wandsworth. Many years afterhad soon ripened into intimacy, and wards, when he wished to express his though since then their personal inter sense of the kindness he had received course had been interrupted, they had from King Stanislaus, he described him interchanged letters. At that time Bo- “as a kind of Falkener.” Of Falkener ling broke was an exile; he had recently few particulars have survived. We know obtained a pardon, and was now settled from Voltaire that he was subsequently in England, where he divided his time appointed ambassador to Constantinople, between his town house in Pall Mall and that he held some appointment in Flanhis country house at Dawley. The friend. ders, and that he was knighted. We ship of Bolingbroke would have been a gather from other sources that he became sufficient passport to the most brilliant secretary to the Duke of Cumberland, literary circles in London, but as the con- and that he was one of the witnesses nection of Bolingbroke lay principally called on the trial of Simon Lord Luvat among the Tories, the young adventurer in 1746. To this it may be added that he had taken the precaution to secure a pro- became towards the end of George the tector among the Whigs. The name of Second's reign one of the postmasters. Bubb Dodington is now a synonym for all general; that in 1747 * he married a that is vilest and most contemptible in the daughter of General Churchill; and that trade of politics, but at the time of which he died at Bath, November 16, 1758.7 we are writing his few virtues were more That Voltaire should have delighted in prominent than his many vices. His his society is not surprising, for though literary accomplishments, his immense we know little of Falkener's character, we wealth, and his generous though not very know enough to understand its charm. discriminating patronage of men of letters, “ I am here - so runs a passage in one had deservedly given him a high place of his letters, quoted by Voltaire in his among the Mæcenases of his age. At his remarks upon Pascal — “just as you left palace in Dorsetshire he loved to assem- me, neither merrier nor sadder, nor richer ble the wits and poets of the opposition, nor poorer; enjoying perfect health, have the most distinguished of whom were ing everything that renders life agreeable, Thomson and Young — the one still busy without love, without avarice, without amwith his “Seasons," the other slowly bition, and without envy; and as long as elaborating his brilliant “Satirics.” For all that lasts I shall call myself a very his introduction to Dodington he was in- happy man.”I debted to the English ambassador at To what extent Voltaire was acquainted Paris, Horace Walpole the elder, who with the English language on his arrival had, at the instigation of the Count de at Greenwich it is impossible to say. We Morville, written a letter recommending can find no traces of his having been en. him to the patronage of Dodington. How gaged in studying it before his retirement fully be availed himself of these and other subsequent to the caning he received from influential friends is proved by the fact the Chevalier de Rohan at the beginning that when he quitted England in 1729 of February, 1726. If this was the case, there was scarcely a single person of dis what he knew of our language was what tinction, either in letters or politics, with he had been able to pick up in about whom he was not personally acquainted. three months. His progress must have But his most intimate associate was an been unusually rapid, for he had not only opulent English merchant, who resided at made himself understood at Greenwich Wandsworth, and whose name was Ever- Fair, but on the following day he had ard Falkener. He had become acquainted mingled familiarly in conversation at the with him in Paris, and had promised, coffee-houses. It is of course possible should opportunity offer, to visit him in that the conversation had on these occa. England.* Falkener's house he seems to sions been carried on in his native lan. have regarded as bis home, and of Falke. guage. Then, as now, large numbers of ner himself he always speaks in terms of French refugees had found a home in affection and gratitude. He dedicated

[ocr errors]

. Gentleman's Magazine for Feb., 1747. • Goldsmith's Life of Voltaire, Miscell. Works, iv., | Id. for Nov., 1758.

1 Euvres complètes, Beuchot, vol. Xxvïi., p. 46

P. 2o,



[ocr errors]

London. They had their own places of given by Goldsmith, and the third is that
worsbip; they had their own coffee-houses, given by Duvernet. It will be well, per-
the principal being the Rainbow in Mary- haps, to let each authority tell his own
lebone. Then, as now, almost all edu- story.
cated Englishmen were conversant with
the language of Racine and Molière. Mr. Pope (writes Owen Ruffhead] told one
Regularly as each season came round a taire had got some recommendation to him

of his most intimate friends that the poet VolParisian company appeared. At court it when he came to England, and that the first was the usual mode of communication. time he saw him was at Twickenham, where he By 1728 its attainment was held to be so kept bim to dinner. Mrs. Pope, a most excelessential a part of education that in the lent woman, was then alive, and observing that October of that year a journal was started, this stranger, who appeared to be entirely the proposed object of which was to facili- emaciated, had no stomach, she expressed her tate the study of it.* Indeed, wherever concern for his want of appetite, on which he went he would encounter his country

Voltaire gave her so indelicate and brutal an men, or Londoners who could converse

account of the occasion of his disorder, con. with him in the language of his country; immediately to rise from table. When Mr.

tracted in Italy, that the poor lady was obliged In Bolingbroke's house he would

Pope related that, his friend asked him how probably hear little else, for Lady Boling- he could forbear ordering his servant John to broke scarcely ever ventured to express thrust Voltaire head and shoulders out of his herself in English; and of Falkener's house? He replied that there was more of proficiency in French we have abundant ignorance in this conduct than a purposed proof. But among the cultivated English- affront; that Voltaire came into England, as men of that day there was one remarkable other foreigners do, on a prepossession that exception, and that was unfortunately in not only all religion, but all common decency the case of a man with whom Voltaire was

of morals, was lost among us. (Life of Pope, most anxious to exchange ideas. “Pope," 4to, p. 156.) wrote Voltaire many years afterwards, Next comes Goldsmith: could hardly read French, and spoke not

M. Voltaire has often told his friends that one “syllable of our language.”+ Volhe never observed in himself such a succession taire's desire to meet Pope had no doubt of opposite passions as he experienced upon been sharpened by the flattering remarks his first interview with Mr. Pope. When he which Pope had two years before made first entered the room and perceived our poor, about the “Henriade," or, as it was then melancholy poet, naturally deformed and wasted entitled, “La Ligue.” A copy of the as he was with sickness and study, he could poem had been forwarded to him from not help regarding him with the utmost comFrance by Bolingbroke, and to oblige Bo- passion; but when Pope began to speak and lingbroke he had managed to spell it out. the most delicate sentiments in the most

to reason upon moral obligations, and dress The perusal had given him, he said, a charming diction, Voltaire's pity began to be very favorable idea of the author, whom changed into admiration, and at last even into he pronounced to be "a bigot but no her- envy. It is not uncommon with him to assert etic; one who knows authority and na. that no man ever pleased him so much in tional sanctions without prejudice to truth serious conversation, nor any whose sentiand charity; in a word, one worthy of ments mended so much upon recollection. that share of friendship and intimacy with (Life of Voltaire, Miscellaneous Works, iv., p. which you honor him." | These compli- 24.) mentary remarks Bolingbroke had,' it It is difficult to reconcile these accounts seems, conveyed to Voltaire, and a corre with the narrative of Duvernet, who, as spondence appeared to have ensued be- he almost certainly had his information tween the two poets, though no traces of from Thiériot, is an authority of great that correspondence are now to be found.ş weight:Of his first interview with Pope three accounts are now extant. The first is Dans leur première entrevue ils furent fort that given by Owen Ruffhead, the sub- embarrassés. Pope s'exprimait très péniblestance of which is repeated by Johnson ment en français, et Voltaire n'étant point acin his life of Pope; the second is that coutumé aux sifflements de la langue anglaise

ne pouvait se faire entendre. Il se retira dans

un village et ne rentra dans Londres que * See the Flying Post or Weekly Medley, the first lorsqu'il eut acquis une grande facilité à s'exDumber of which appeared on October 8, 1728.

[ocr errors]

primer en anglais. † See Spence's Anecdotes (Singer, Svo), p. 204, note. 1 Letter to Bolingbroke, dated April 9, 1724. § Sce Pope's letter to 'Carye, dated"December 25, This seems to us by far the most proba.

ble account. It is certain that Voltaire


devoted himself with great assiduity to with the sorrows of life; he is dead, he the systematic study of English shortly says, to everything but the affection be after his arrival among us. He provided owes to his correspondent. He alludes himself with a regular teacher, who prob- bitterly to the retraite ignorée from which ably assisted him not only in the compo. he writes; and he says it would have been sition of his letters, which he now regu- far better, both for his relatives and himlarly wrote in English, but in the compo- self, had death removed him instead of sition of his two famous essays.* He his sister. “Les amertumes et les souf. obtained an introduction to Colley Cibber, frances" so run his gloomy reflections and regularly attended the theatres, fol. “qui en ont marqué presque tous les lowing the play in a printed copy:t His jours ont été souvent mon ouvrage. Je studies were, however, interrupted by his sens le peu que je vaux; mes faiblesses suddenly leaving England for France me font pitié et mes fautes me font hor. an expedition attended with considerable reur.” On the following day he wrote in peril, and conducted with the utmost se- a similar strain to Madame de Bernières, crecy. The particulars of this journey He was in deep distress, too, at the cru: are involved in great obscurity. That he elty and injustice with which he had been undertook it with the object of inducing treated by his brother; and to this dis. the Chevalier de Rohan to give him an tress he subsequently gave passionate utopportunity of avenging his wounded terance in a letter to Thiériot.* But honor; that for some time, at least, be neither depression nor sorrow ever held remained concealed in Paris, not ventur- long dominion over that buoyant and voling to have an interview with any friend atile spirit. On the very day on which he or with any relative, – is clear from bis was thus mournfully expressing himself letter to Thiériot dated August 12, 1726. to Madame de Bernières, he was, in anThat he was at Wandsworth again, almost other letter, dilating with enthusiasm on immediately afterwards, is proved by a the beauties of Pope's poetry. This we letter to Mademoiselle Bessières, dated learn from a very interesting fragment October 15, in which he speaks of himself preserved by Warburton in his notes to as having been there for two months. the “ Epistle to Arbuthnot." As the frag

He arrived in England in a state of ment appears to have escaped the notice abject depression, and this depression of all Voltaire's editors and biographers, was aggravated by ill health and the cross and as it proves the very high opinion he accidents of fortune. He had brought entertained of Pope's genius, we will with him a bill of exchange of the value quote a portion of it:of twenty thousand francs, and this bill

I look his

upon not being in immediate need of money Criticism” as superior to the “ Art of Poetry.”


called the “ Essay on - he had neglected to present. On pre- of Horace, and his “Rape of the Lock” is, in senting it to the man on whom it had been my opinion, above the “ Lutrin” of Despreaux. drawn - one D'Acosta, a Jew - D’Acosta I never saw so amiable an imagination, so gen. informed him that three days before he had tle graces, so great variety, so much wit, and become bankrupt; and the money was lost. so refined knowledge of the world, as in this His misfortune, however, happening to little performance. reach the ears of the king, the king good. It would be interesting to know if this naturedly sent him a sum which has been manuscript letter, which Warburton devariously estimated, but which probably scribes as being before him as he wrote, amounted to a hundred guineas, and so is now in existence. It was dated Octorelieved him from pressing embarrass. ber 15, 1726. ment. But what affected him most was

Of his movements during the autumn of the news of the death of his sister. This 1726 we know nothing. The probability threw him into an agony of grief. There is that he was engaged in close study, and is nothing in the whole range of Voltaire's saw little society. He instructs bis corvoluminous correspondence so touching respondents in France to direct their let. as the letter in which his feelings on this ters to the care of Lord Boliogbroke; but sad occasion found vent. It was ad. he was evidently not in personal commudressed to Mademoiselle Bessières, the nication with Bolingbroke or with any lady who had sent the intelligence. It is member of the Twickenham circle. This dated “Wandsworth, October 15, 1726.” is proved by the fact that he knew nothHe describes himself as acquainted only ing of the serious accident by which Pope

La Voltairomanie, p. 46, 47. † Cherwood's History of the Stage, p. 46.

* See letter dated “Wandsworth, June 14, 1727," Cuvres Complètes (ed. 1880), vol. xxxiii., p. 172.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

nearly lost his life until two months after tion, that he succeeded in impressing on it had happened, as his letter to Pope, his friendly opponent that Milton's dated November 16, shows. Another let. blindness lay not in his song." ter,* too — a letter undated, but evidently A letter written about this time to a belonging to this period, and written in friend in France, dated by the editors English — addressed to John Brinsden, but dated, we suspect, wrongly – 1726, is Bolingbroke's secretary, points to the a sufficient proof that the young exile was same conclusion. Very little, however, of no longer either discontented or unhappy. the following year was spent in retire- “You who are a perfect Briton,” thus the ment, for we find traces of him in many letter runs, " should cross the Channel places. His attenuated figure and eager, and come to us. I assure you that a man haggard face grew familiar to the frequent- of your temper would not dislike a country ers of fashionable society. He passed where one obeys to (sic) the laws only, three months at the seat of Lord Peter and to one's whims. Reason is free here, borough, where he became intimate with and walks her own way. Hypochondriacs Swift,t who was a fellow-visitor. At are especially welcome. No manner of Bubb Dodington's mansion, at Eastbury, living appears strange. We have men he met Young, who had not as yet taken who walk six miles a day for their health, orders, but was seeking fortune as a seed upon roots, never taste fesh, wear a hanger-on at great houses. It was a cu- coat in winter thinner than your ladies do rious chance which brought together the in the hottest days.” * future author of the “Night Thoughts” In March he was present at the funeral and the future author of “ La Pucelle ;” it of Sir Isaac Newton. It was a spectacle was a still more curious circumstance that which made a profound impression on they should have formed a friendship him, and he ever afterwards delighted to which remained unbroken when the one recall how he had once been the denizen bad become the most rigid of Christian of a country in which the first officers of divines and the other the most daring of the state contended for the honor of supanti-Christian incendiaries. I At East. porting the pall of a man whose sole disbury occurred a well-known incident. A iinction had lain in intellectual eminence. discussion had arisen as to the merits of How differently, he thought, would the Paradise Lost." Young spoke in praise author of the “ Principia” have fared in of his favorite poet; Voltaire, who had as Paris ! He subsequently made the aclittle sympathy with Milton as he had quaintance of the philosopher's niece, with Eschylus and Dante, objected to the Mrs. Conduit, and of the physician and episode of Sin and Death, contending surgeon who attended him in his last mo. that as they were abstractions it was ments; from them he learned many interabsurd to assign them offices proper only esting particulars. It is perhaps worth to concrete beings. These objections he mentioning that we owe to Voltaire the enforced with his usual eloquence and famous story of the falling apple, and the sarcastic wit. The parallel between the preservation of the reply which Newton is huogry monster of Milton, “grinning hor- said to have given to the person who rible its ghastly smile," and the meagre asked him how he had discovered the form of the speaker – his thin face laws of the universe. † lighted up, as it always was in conversa- In the course of this year he met Gay, tion, with that peculiar sardonic smile who showed him "The Beggar's Opera familiar to us from his portraits — was before it appeared on the stage; † and it irresistible. And Young closed the argu- was probably in the course of this year ment with an epigram (we quote Herbert that he paid his memorable visit to Con. Croft's version): –

His admiration of the greatest of You are so witty, profligate, and thin,

our comic poets is sufficiently indicated At once we think thee Milton, Death, and Sin. in the “ Lettres Philosophiques," and that

admiration he lost no time in personally It appears, however, from Young's poem, expressing. But Congreve, whose teinwhere he plainly alludes to this conversa- per was probably not improved by gout

and blindness, and who was irritated • Preserved in Colet's “Relics of Literature,” P. 70; perhaps by the ebullience of his young

† See a very interesting extract from a MS. journal kept by a Major Broome, who visited Voltaire in 1765, and who heard this and other particulars from Voltaire * Pièces Inédites de Voltaire. Paris, 1820. himself. It is printed in Notes and Queries (first series), + Lettres Philosophiques, passim.

| MS. Jetter written by a Major Broome, who visited Young dedicated to Voltaire in the most flattering Voltaire in 1765: printed in Notes and Queries (first terms his “ Sea-Piece." See bis poems.

series), vol. X., p. 403.

[ocr errors]


vol. X., p. 403.


« VorigeDoorgaan »